The prevention of birth complications

Miscarriages, premature births and other birth complications such as pre-eclampsia affect many pregnant women in the UK. But, just what are these complications, how often do they occur and how can we avoid them?


Miscarriage is the loss of a baby during the first 23 weeks of pregnancy. A miscarriage can be identified by vaginal bleeding, cramping and low abdominal pain. 1 in 4 women experience miscarriage in their lifetime and over 80% of miscarriages will occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. [1]

Premature birth

Premature birth is when a baby is born before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy. 1 in 10 births result in a premature birth, thats around 60 000 babies born prematurely a year [2]. Preterm babies have increased risk of illness, disability and even death.


Pre-eclampsia is a medical condition which effects some women during the second half of their pregnancy. This disease is characterised by high blood pressure, severe headaches and swelling of the body due to fluid retention.  [3]

These birth complications are an increasingly growing issue in the UK and effect many pregnant women. New research has found an early blood test that can detect the risk of miscarriage and premature births within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The Laboratory for Reproductive Medicine and Immunology [4] have found a link between a molecule found in the placenta bed of mothers, microRNA, and the risk of serious birth complications months before the symptoms develop.

Of the 160 births investigated, miscarriage and late pre eclampsia were predicted with 90% accuracy and premature births before 34 weeks with 89% accuracy. [4]

Doctors are hopeful that this research may help them to avoid premature births in the future.

However, there is more research to be done in this area and follow up studies need to be done before the results are valid.